Did you know the average person complains 15-30 times a day? Not only is whining annoying to others, it’s bad for your health as well. Researchers at Stanford University found that complaining shrinks the hippocampus—the area of the brain responsible for intelligent thought and problem solving. Repeated complaining actually rewires your brain to continue the behavior, so eventually you find it easier to be negative than positive.
Of course, there are times when complaining is warranted, and it’s important to voice your opinion if you experience a personal slight, or if you’re disappointed in a product or service. But you need to address the source of the complaint and solve the problem, otherwise the constant grumbling will chip away at your overall happiness.
Don’t just vent to friends and family about a grievance. According to Guy Winch, author of The Squeaky Wheel, complaining with a purpose toward solving problems and creating change can make the venting more satisfying and also more effective.
He suggests making a “complaint sandwich.” Begin with an opening line to get the attention of the person you are complaining to. This may help keep them from getting defensive. Start by thanking the person for agreeing to hear you out. Then comes the complaint or “sandwich filler” (“It seems as though the products have been delivered damaged”) then follow up with a positive statement, such as “I’ve always been happy with your service and I hope we can remedy this situation easily.”
Technique of the Week: Pay attention to your complaining. Are you just venting in search of sympathy? Instead, direct your grievance to the source, and don’t forget your complaint sandwich!